TRANSPORT bosses have announced a six-month extension to their charter agreement for the second Arran ferry.

MV Alfred, which is owned by private company Pentland Ferries, will now remain on charter to CalMac Ferries Ltd until March 2025.

The catamaran is being used this summer to provide extra capacity on the main Arran route to and from Brodick, though the vessel is operating to and from Troon instead of Ardrossan.

CalMac also confirmed the primary Arran vessel MV Caledonian Isles, which has been out of action since January for overhaul and then for major repairs, is on schedule to return to the Ardrossan-Brodick route at the end of August.

The company also says the first of the two long-delayed new vessels for the Arran service, MV Glen Sannox, is expected to enter service at some point during the six-month extension to MV Alfred's charter.

Another new vessel, MV Isle of Islay, built to serve the island whose name she carries, is also due to enter service around the same time.

MV Alfred originally operated from Ardrossan Harbour, but following Peel Ports' decision to close the Irish berth at Ardrossan on safety grounds, it has been sailing to Arran from Troon.

It remains unclear if MV Alfred will still be deployed on the Clyde route during the six-month contract extension, or will be used in another part of the network.

A CalMac spokesperson said: "We are pleased to update our customers with news that Transport Scotland has agreed to a further six-month extension of our current charter of MV Alfred.

MV Caledonian Isles is expected back in service towards the end of August.MV Caledonian Isles is expected back in service towards the end of August. (Image: Newsquest)

"This means the charter scheduled to end on September 4 will remain until March 2025. 

"MV Alfred will provide additional resilience to the network during the remainder of a busy summer period, and the next winter timetable, which includes an annual overhaul schedule. 

"The vessel has primarily operated to and from Arran, sailing the Ardrossan/Troon-Brodick route.

"Plans beyond then will be agreed in consultation with stakeholders in the next few weeks." 

They added: "During her time with us, she has undergone ramp modifications, which allows her to accommodate all types of vehicles, except for motorhomes over six metres or any vehicle towing a caravan. 

"As the vessel has no retail offering on board, we are currently exploring options to improve this should MV Alfred be deployed to a service with an extended passage time.

"We will keep customers updated should this be the case.

"We are also pleased to confirm that MV Caledonian Isles, which has ordinarily served the route between Ardrossan-Brodick is still on schedule to return to service by the end of August.

"The vessel has been in drydock for extensive repairs since January.

"In addition, during MV Alfred's six-month extension period, we expect two new major vessels in MV Glen Sannox and MV Isle of Islay to enter service, further strengthening our position to improve the lifeline services we provide to islands across our network."

MV Glen Sannox and her younger sister, MV Glen Rosa, when they do enter service on the Arran route, will have to sail to and from Troon rather than Ardrossan until major upgrade work is carried out on the North Ayrshire terminal to allow it to accommodate the larger ships.